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To the Last Man, Prolouge Part 2 (revised edition)
Posted By: John Gurule, Jr.<d3jsgurule@yahoo.com>
Date: 2 February 2005, 1:42 AM

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      The tactics deck nearest to the airlocks was now the site of a makeshift command post for the marines guarding the station. The construction was excellent, as far as Arnold could see. The exits were well defended, weapons and ammo were easily accessible, and the barriers that were set up were set up just so to make cover easy to get to, to be out of the way, and so the soldiers behind them could have an effective fire arc. The UNSCDF engineers were still some of the best.

      Johnson walked briskly down the steps in front of him to the second level. There was a man standing there, looking out over the deck. He noticed Johnson, then saw the beret, snapped to and saluted.

      "Welcome to the party, sir. I'm Master Sergeant Andrew Wilson, sir," the man said in a thick Texan accent.

      "Glad I could come. What's the situation so far?"

      "The Column's been able to get away from the main Covenant Battle cluster. She's being pursued, but it's nothing too fancy just a fighter and a boarding craft now and then."

      "The boarders, how far into the Column have they gotten?"

      "Well, as you can see on this screen," Wilson said, typing something and pulling up a diagram of the Column, "the boarders've taken the airlocks, stairwells three-two, three-three and security station four. We sealed them in, but it won't take them long to cut through the bulkheads. That's about it. Anything you can think of, sir?"

      Johnson looked over the schematics carefully. He was never so confused in his life. He looked around for something useful. Then he noticed what he needed. A ventilation shaft ran from just outside the room straight over the airlocks. If he could set up a diversion, he could take the hostiles down from behind. All he needed was a small team of marines and well, there were a few flashbangs in his pocket for emergencies. . . .

      "Could these vents support someone's weight?"

      "Probably, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to try. If it-" he was cut off by Johnson.

      "Sergeant, gather up some marines and meet me by the weapons cache over there."

      "Yes sir!"

      Arnold made a signal with his hands to the two marines creeping behind him. They went past him, kicked open the vent intake and tossed two grenades down to the floor below. After the explosion they hopped down. Johnson proceeded to drop down as well.

      They were in the airlocks. The place was emptied of Covenant but the signs that they were there were all around. Plasma Rifles, Pistols, Grenades, Needlers, and a large purple crate or two were scattered all around the room. Johnson waved to the marines for them to follow him. They ran down the hall to their right.

      They heard the sounds of an Elite walking their way down the white hallway. Johnson motioned the marines to crouch down. He sneaked to the corner and peeked around it. The creature was at the opposite end, carrying a Carbine in its hands. Alongside it was a few Grunts and a Jackal.

      "Okay, time to rock and roll, people," Arnold whispered. "Standard corner takedown, my count." The marines went to his side and stood against the wall. "One, two," he began, slowly. "Go!"

      They came off the wall and formed a line in front of the enemies, who were halfway down the hall now. The marine on the far left of Johnson fired. The rounds raced down the hall and put three clean holes through a Grunt's head.

      "Nice shot!" the other shouted. Johnson fired at the Elite and its sheilds fluttered. He shot again and again. Finally, the sheilds gave one last flash and went out. The Elite looked around. It dove for the nearest cover it could find. Johnson lead his shot and hoped for a bit of luck. He pulled back the trigger and caught the beast in midair. One of the bulllets tore through its eye and came out the other side, carrying with it a piece of brain; another came through its chest and splattered the thick purple blood across the wall; the last one just made a partial hole in the wall.

      "They got leader! Run!" the remaining Grunt cried. The marines closest to Johnson put it down in a bloodbath. The M7 Caseless sprayed out a quick burst of fire that made the imp's body jerk and fall foward. The Jackal covered its head with its shield and ran in a cowardly fashion back down to the end of the hall where it turned and ran around the corner.

      "Get tactical! They know we're here now!" Arnold screamed. There was an explosion and the high pitched whine of plasma and the crack of gunfire. Right on cue, Arnold thought to himself. "Let's move out!"

      They ran down the hall with their weapons beared. After climbing up a stairwell, they entered a large security checkpoint where a heated firefight was well underway. Plasma floated by as the boarders turned to face the newcomers. The marines ran to the right and went out of Johnson's vision.

      Plasma scarred the ground dangerously close to his moving feet. He found cover behind a console to his left. It was tiny, but it would have to do. He ducked behind it as plasma bolts streamed past him. Movement sparked to his left and he fired two bursts from his BR55 at the source of the action. The Grunt at the opposite end of his crosshairs flew back at least two feet with its thick blood falling to the floor. More exposed themselves from behind a counter. On the counter a plasma turret was set up that could potentially make things messy. There was a brief burst from a Plasma Rifle that hit the console and sent sparks showering down on Johnson. He covered his face as the sparks came down and stung his back and arms.

      He unclipped a grenade from his belt and started to make the brief run to the counter. An Elite veteran saw him and fired his weapon. The blasts of energy flew all around him. One hurtled past his leg, nicking and burning the back of his right calf. He groaned in pain and fell. His right hand clutched the burning wound, which was bleeding. He quickly pulled the pin from his grenade and chucked it into the office behind the counter. The explosion rocked the floor beneath him.

      He speedily rolled so as to not let the Elite catch him off guard. He pulled himself to his feet despite the burning pain coming from the back of his leg. The Colonel limped into the shattered door leading into the office from where the Grunts were once. The floor was black from the grenade's explosion. Books, papers and other objects from the shelves at the edges of the room were scattered all about the floor. Johnson limped over to the turret. Surprisingly, it was operational. He had to duck quickly as plasma bolts flew overhead, crashing into the far wall and the counter. More papers flew onto the floor. He got up and put his finger around the turret's trigger and squeezed. The end of the barrel suddenly flashed and it nearly startled him. He regained control of himself and tried to make out the shapes of the enemies moving behind the brightness. He took out what seemed to be a few Elites and let go of the trigger.

      Johnson noticed movement to his right and brought his rifle to bear. He quickly locked the head of the Grunt into his sights and fired. The creature stopped and fell backwards, landing on the large backpack that they wore.

      Another Jackal revealed itself on the other side of the large room. Arnold shot a quick burst in through the niche in their sheild. This knocked the Jackal off its balance, and he finished it off with another three rounds to its head. The creature's neck snapped at the force of the blow and its head disintegrated in a splash of blood. Its shield dispersed and it keeled over and landed with a meaty thud, dead.

      The fight settled down after that, with only the occasional rifle burst here and there. Johnson limped with his bleeding leg to the middle of the room and sat on a green crate. He looked up at the Sergeant walking toward him.

      "Looks like your plan worked just fine, Colonel."

      "Not perfectly," Arnold replied, pointing to the bloody gash on the back of his leg. "You came in at the right time, and I was able to get them from behind, but they got me."

      "This is the Admiral, I'm enacting Cole Protocol, Article Three. We're making a jump, but all personnel must evacuate the ship. I repeat, all personnel evacuate ship."

      "Looks like we need to get out of here. Come on, I'll get somebody to patch you up."